The Department of Reparative History
an installation & publishing project
History is composed of interconnected stories as well as distinct modes of storytelling. The Department of Reparative History is an imagining of a cultural dialogue recalibrated to include missing narratives. Specifically, it is a meditation on what is missing as a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The legions of creative gay men who were taken by the disease in the 1980s and 90s were all part of a complicated and exquisite network. Whether artists, writers, collectors, appreciators, the effect of those losses on our culture is beyond fathoming. At any gallery or museum take note the artists born after the 1940s. Who is represented? There is a yawning hole. Where are the gay men? –– the men who have always been indispensable arbiters in the cultural discourse.
When confronted by catastrophic events our society generally insists on a narrative arch that includes acknowledgement of the tragic event or circumstances, the comforting of the stricken and impaired, followed by a time of restoration and renewal. For many caught in immediate proximity to the HIV/AIDS crisis the thought of ‘closure’ and a new beginning simply isn’t a possibility. The terrain is too scorched. Further complicating the storyline is the fact that the effects of the pandemic are still being experienced in ever changing global configurations. The story of HIV/AIDS isn’t exclusive to the gay men who were the first, dramatically impacted community. However, the stories of those at the forefront of the assault, and the skewed cultural narrative that resulted from those losses, are the interest and sadness at the core of The Department of Reparative History.
The facts and evidence of the chronological and physical narratives surrounding HIV/AIDS are documented. Yet, it is something that exists outside of our conscious awareness, pieced together through ephemeral reports, cultural detritus and the clues that exist in the culture at large that serve as the raw material for a contemplation of a narrative that might have been, should the crisis never have happened. The Department of Reparative History is a plaint –– an utterance of grief and sorrow, a lamentation for a missing history. It is an attempt to hear a signal in the ether.
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